As an enthusiastic fan of the paintings by Claude Monet, I am intrigued and inspired by his ability to capture the light. The Impressionist pioneer, obsessed by light, worked to capture changing light and its accompanying shadows from sunrise to sunset, experiencing the same landscape in myriad ways to eternalize a fleeting moment of time. Although I always assumed that the artist found the sights surrounding him as soothingly beautiful as I find his paintings, a recent article from the Art Institute of Chicago informs me that Monet found the light “simply terrifying.”
An artist obsessed by the “need to render what I experience,” the French master had taken upon himself the impossible task of capturing light on canvas, and was terrified that he wouldn’t be able to achieve his ultimate goal. Of course, the persistent, defiant artist who often painted for 14 hours per day in spite of extreme weather conditions to capture what he saw accomplished his desired aim again and again to gain lasting acclaim and devotion from people like me who are drawn to the shimmering colorful work Monet produced.
Imagine my surprise then to learn that Pierre Soulages, the 101-year-old French painter known as the “Master of Black” who was recently honored with a solo exhibition at the Louvre in Paris, also credits light as his inspiration. His big, bold abstract paintings appear to me to be bleakly black, but the artist talks about how his work is “enlightened by the mysteries of light,” and speaks of light reflecting uniquely on black paint to inform his masterworks. “I paint with light,” he stated in a CBS Sunday Morning interview, going on to say that while he concentrates on the power and possibilities of black, “light is the key.”
Light is used to symbolize many good things—joy, knowledge, purity, hope. Notable people are recognized as being “shining lights,” new information is “brought to light;” right now we are seeing “light at the end of the tunnel” with production of a vaccine to combat COVID-19, and of course Christians around the world are celebrating the birth of Jesus, touted as “the Light of the world.” The Christmas season has long been filled with light, ranging from candles in windows to massive displays ornamenting homes, parks, and cities.
Darke Countians are blessed with many such delightful sights, including Dick and Diane Brown’s annual outpouring of luminosity at the corner of Jaysville-St. John’s and Requarth Roads. Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus is aglow, as is the Columbus Zoo and the zoo in Cincinnati. Although New York City has suffered a very difficult year, holiday windows gleam with light at iconic stores such as Macy’s, Saks, and Bloomingdales. And a new light-filled opportunity has appeared in our area to brighten the darkness of this socially-distanced period of time; “Journey Borealis” has been opened at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park in Hamilton.
The sculpture park has produced a holiday light show for twenty years, but has now partnered with an innovative production company to create “Journey Borealis, a visual art experience showcasing local and regional new media artists, light-based sculptors, more than 1 million lights and a soundtrack by the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra and the Cincinnati Boychoir. This safe two and a half mile drive-through attraction will be open through January 3, offering joyful interaction with music, art, and light to brighten spirits in spite of changes to holiday traditions necessitated by the pandemic.
Light drives out darkness, animating hope and joy. During this difficult time, may light provide its magic in the lives of us all.
Marilyn Delk is the former executive director of the Darke County Center for the Arts and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.